Originally published Tuesday, 20 May 2014.
Twenty years ago, a single parent's program in a church was almost unheard of. The fear of supporting a failed marriage or unwed pregnancy, or simply the lack of single parents in a congregation may have been some of the reasons why. Whatever the case, we are seeing a huge shift in the dynamic of single parenting in our country and churches are looking for new and better ways to minister to them.
Today, a child is just as likely to be born outside of marriage as in. 50% of today's marriage are still failing. There are approximately 15 million single parents in our country (depending on which statistics you read) and still, we have roughly 2 out of 3 single moms not attending a local church regularly.
As a believer, this alarms me. The God-given passion I carry to plant effective single parent programs in churches keeps me up at night. We are so thankful, as an organization, to see a shift in interest level in the establishment of single parent ministries, as we believe this is a sect of our population that we may lose, if we aren't actively pursuing them. We have helped more than 1,200 churches plant or grow their single parent outreach. And one of the things that often comes up in conversation is the fact that many churches have tried to launch a single moms' support group, but it failed.
We know that single moms exist in your community. We know that you have them in your church. We know that there is a huge unchurched population of single parents, so how do we effectively reach them? What are some things that may not be working in your single parent's program? Consider the following a short list of points to ponder:
1. Did you have your single parent meetings on a Wednesday night or weekend? Single parents are often working two jobs, juggling kids, carpool, homework, and much more. Sometimes, a midweek support group just simply doesn't work with their schedules. Often churches try to implant the ministry on a night that works best for them (when childcare is already in place), but it doesn't necessarily work best for the parents meant to be served.
2. Did you have childcare at your meetings? Childcare is absolutely a requirement. Many single parents struggle to find babysitters (or likely can't afford them), so having a single parent support group without childcare is kind of like having a potluck with no plates. Gotta have it!
3. Did your meetings ramble on? Sorry, but a relevant point here. We've all been part of a Bible study where Sally monopolizes most of the time, rambles on about the book of Jeremiah, critiques the teacher, and cries over the same sob story every week. As the facilitator of a support group for single parents, respect the fact that many of these parents already have way too much on their plates. Starting and ending on time is important.
4. Did you have fun? Allow for flexibility and fun. Maybe you've been in a Bible study for several weeks. Take a break and just have a game night or karaoke or a bbq. Just do life with them. The establishment of relationship comes before ministry. Often, as ministry leaders, we are too busy looking to fix folks than we are just wanting to love them where they are. Make your support group or ministry fun. Laugh alot!
For more information on how to start a successful single parents program or to learn more on how to improve an existing program, visit http://www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.